Farewell to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity
– Is the Left Still on the Left? –
By Dirk Maxeiner and Michael
Translated by Professor Wolfgang Kasper
Published by the Centre for Independent Studies. St Leonards, NSW, Australia,
in March 2006
Translated from a Position Paper of “Liberales Institut”,
The Left has won. Admittedly, its economic and political concepts have
failed wherever they were applied. It has nevertheless conquered people's
minds. Everybody nowadays shares values that once were decidedly on the
Left. They are nowadays embraced by people around the world, who would
not consider themselves of the Left.
Let us hasten to add that we use the term 'Left' intentionally without differentiating.
There are, of course, all sorts of differences between the social democratic
parties and the Attac movement of the anti-globalisers, between the metal workers
unions and Third World initiatives. 'Left' for our purposes designates a somewhat
ill defined canon of values and identification with a historic movement.
Everybody is for democracy and liberty; for progress, enlightenment and
science; and for equal rights, whether woman or man, black or white.
oppression, economic exploitation and religious obscurantism. These attitudes
are now commonplace, and everyone would sign up for them when asked in a
door-knock campaign. But, a hundred years ago (and in some places as
little as a few decades
ago), all these aspirations were decidedly on the Left. In 1900, a European
landowner would not have conceded equal rights to his labourers and would
have considered it the God-given fate of his servants that they lived
poverty. Today's moral standards have been defined by the Left.
This is not to say that the solutions, which the present-day Left has
to offer, would advance these aspirations. Who would not want a world
oppression, privileges for the few, and equal opportunity for all? But it
is dubious whether government regulations, bureaucratic guidance and the
out of taxpayers' money can advance these values. Even people with a Left
ideology are becoming sceptical about Statist patent solutions.
We have seen sufficient proof in the 20th century that central planning
and the rule of Communist parties produce nothing but poverty, brutal
and, time and again, mass murder. As of the early 21st century, doubt also
spreads about the utopia of the democratic Left, the welfare state. The annual
surveys of the economic freedom in the world show regularly the poor performance
of the social welfare statesi. By contrast, the difference between rich and
poor is least in market economies and where governments confine themselves
to fostering expedient rules (institutions). The least heavily regulated
economies also do best with regard to other important indicators that reflect
of the Left: higher living standards among the relatively poorest quarter
of the population, a higher level of education and better health care.
The Left in the affluent Western countries has become reactionary, trying
to conserve the structures of the past. Once upon a time, the Left fought
radical change. Nowadays, they frown in sorrow about too much change and
point to the risks. Technical progress? Thanks, but no thanks! Open borders
wares from the Third World? Caution! More individual liberty? Heavens forbid!
Fighting dictators? Not with us!
Oddly enough, the Left is resolutely opposed to the attempt by the United
States and Britain to trigger a new democratic beginning among the despotic
in the Middle East. Was not the fight against oppressors and torturers once
a Left cause? To be on the Left once meant to embrace progress, favour change
and believe in a better tomorrow. What has shifted in their conception of
the world and their identity? Indeed, is the Left still on the left?
It is always an irrefutable indication of intellectual sclerosis when
the methods are being upheld instead of the goals. When European countries
telecommunications, socialist politicians warned that pensioners and the
would not be able to afford a telephone; capitalist rationalisation would
destroy jobs in the industry. In reality, the costs plummeted, and numerous
were created. These were outcomes that the Left should have welcomed, though
they were created by liberal methods. Regulations, prohibitions, and subsidies
have, by contrast, failed to bring about more 'social justice'. It is the
opposite of 'socially just' when the sales girl pays the taxes to subsidise
of her boss. It is the opposite of 'social' when the factory worker has to
contribute to financing the cost-free university studies of the manager's
son. Once one gets fixated on specific methods and instruments, one arrives
results. It is high time to ask whether the old policy concepts serve to
promote the objectives and values that we all now share. Maybe, the time
has come for
a new Left. The German socialist and friend of Marx and Engels Karl Kautsky
(1854-1938) once wrote: "Should we see proof that private property in
the means of production is the only way to set the proletariat and humankind
as a whole free, then we must jettison socialism for the sake of realising
the ultimate aims."
We want to discuss why a few concepts that are nowadays considered
Left-wing, are miles away from what Kautsky called the 'liberation
Farewell to Liberty:
The Left Lends Moral Support to Dictators
It is well known that Leftists have, time and again, supported criminal
regimes. Since the end of the Cold War, this support has gained unexpected
dimensions. Many Leftists now defend not only Leftist dictatorships,
but all of them -- and that is new.
Before we look at this phenomenon, we have to cast a short glance back.
The most murderous despots of the 20th century got the fulsome praise
artists and intellectuals. Brecht and Neruda, the Webbs, Picasso and Chaplin,
Harry Belafonte and Jean-Paul Sartre, the list goes on and on.... Hundreds
of prominent figures and hundreds of less prominent ones imagined a land of
promise behind the Iron Curtain. As late as the 1970s, German radicals, who
subsequently held top positions in the Greens Party and key government departments,
were great admirers of Mao Zedong and Pol Pot.
Of course, there were always the others. The great schism between social
democracy and communism made it clear that the Left majority remained
to democracy. Socialists have defended freedom in historic situations when
Conservatives and Liberals failed to stand up, for example when Hitler took
power in 1933. They also stood in the frontline against Stalinism. West Berlin
might well have been lost to Soviet dominance, had it not been for Social Democrats
such as Ernst Reuter, Kurt Schumacher and Willy Brandt.
Since the 1980s, the anti-totalitarian commitment of the Social Democrats
has been flagging. When the movement against stationing mid-range rockets
countries began, which - as we now know - was steered from East Berlin, the
Young Socialists of the day developed ever-closer contacts with GDR operatives.
Before long, there were high-level dialogues between representatives of the
German Social Democrats and the GDR regime. Leading German Social Democrats
condemned the workers' movement in Poland; and when the population of the GDR
rose, they remained to the very last steadfastly convinced of the sustainability
of the dictatorship. They kept warning that no one should have any 'illusions'.
History has proven them thoroughly wrong. Nonetheless, the young socialists
of the 1980s persisted with what they called Realpolitik and the 'politics
of disengagement'. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's foreign policy was shaped
by a close friendship with Russia's semi-democratic President Putin, and an
amazing amount of blind trust in China's rulers.
For most of the 20th century, Social Democrat subservience and solidarity
with the Communists were reserved for dictatorships of the Red variety.
proud to be anti-fascist and full of contempt for right-wing oppressor regimes,
always ready to join the fight.
The Left's most important and successful moral argument against the United
States during the Cold War was US support for right-wing dictators. Successive
Washington governments had fostered some sinister characters under US Secretary
of State's Cordell Hull's motto: "He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he is
our son-of-a-bitch!" -- Mobutu in the Congo, Pinochet in Chile, Marcos
in the Philippines and dozens more. After the collapse of the Soviet empire,
US support for pro-American dictatorships dwindled rapidly. Some of them were
sent packing by their own subjects. US support lined up more and more behind
democratic opposition movements. After September 11th, Condoleezza Rice turned
this into a political agenda, and US foreign policy is now quite explicit about
spreading democracy and freedom. The terror regimes in Kabul and Baghdad were
deposed. Pro-American, though undemocratic regimes are increasingly cold-shouldered
by Washington. Even embarrassing exceptions from this rule - Saudi Arabia and
Egypt - now have to put up with regular criticism and admonition.
As soon as the US government withdrew its good will from right-wing dictators,
the European Left turned it on. All of a sudden, fascists, theocrats and corrupt
military hoons were presented in a milder light, as long as they opposed US
policies. Once the Left called for international solidarity, but now they emphasise
the unconditional inviolability of national sovereignty, even for thugs who
have already committed several genocides. Paul Berman, the US Left-liberal,
writes: "The old-fashioned left used to be universalist -- used to think
that everyone, all over the world, would some day want to live according to
the same fundamental values, and ought to be helped to do so. They thought
this was especially true for people in reasonably modern societies with universities,
industries, and a sophisticated bureaucracy-societies like the one in Iraq.
But no more! Today, people say, out of a spirit of egalitarian tolerance: Social
democracy for Swedes! Tyranny for Arabs! And this is supposed to be a left-wing
attitude? By the way, you don't hear much from the left about the non-Arabs
in countries like Iraq, do you? The left, the real left, used to be the champion
of minority populations -- of people like the Kurds. No more! The left, my
friend, has abandoned the values of the left -- except for a few of us, of
In his book, Terror and Liberalism, Berman draws insightful parallels
between the present situation and the 1930s. At that time, the French
had a large strictly pacifist minority. The socialist pacifists saw a danger
for peace in France rearming against the German threat and preparing for
a German attack. They fought bravely against anti-German ressentiments
for public sympathy for the German position. They tried to convince the French
populace that the Nazis were not all that bad, indeed that they were right
about quite a few things. Wasn't the Versailles Treaty unfair? Did Hitler
not do the right thing by getting the jobless off the streets? Didn't
have too much influence in Germany? Their tolerance and their love for peace
made the pacifists blind to the state terror of the Nazi regime and its preparations
for war -- they much preferred to criticise their own government. When the
German army later occupied France, many socialists became willing collaborators
who supported the Nazi administration -- all with the best of intentions,
it goes without saying.
Democracies have never been as strong as they are today. By the end
of the second world war, the overwhelming majority of mankind still
dictatorships, monarchies and colonial governments. Today, nearly two thirds
of all nations
elect their governments, and this is where the majority of the global population
live. 85 countries even have fully-fledged democracies with all basic liberties.
Thus, there are fewer and fewer grounds for allowing the dinosaurs of history
to dictate the international agenda. In 2000, the 'Community of Democracies'
was founded in Warsaw as a global initiative by democratic governments
to spread democracy, freedom and human rights in and outside the
UN. This sounds
a project in the best of genuine Left traditions: internationalist, democratic
and future-oriented. Alas, the Left has shown hardly any interest in the
Farewell to Equality:
The Left Enhances the Segregation of the Better-of
The political successes of Social Democracy in the 1960s and early 1970s
produced a huge number of well-paid positions, mainly in the public sector.
At the same time, technical change allowed the industrial workforce to
shrink rapidly. As a consequence, the Left changed its thinking and attitudes
fundamentally. Pyramid climbers who made it tend to think conservatively.
New social movements, and later the rise of the Greens, acted as catalysts
which accelerated the metamorphosis of the Social Democrat mainstream.
The class struggle had been as good as won. The workers had their own
homes, their cars, their holiday trips; the trade unions had their
wage cartel and
much clout in the management of industry. So, the steadily expanding academic
Left had to find a new client base which needed representing. Ideally, their
target clientele had to be rather weak and immature. Best of all that - and
different from the aspiring working class - they would not want to interfere
with the schemes of the avant garde. This is how disadvantaged minorities,
distant peoples, animals and trees became the focus of Left attention.
The changes were driven by a pronounced need for occupying the moral
high ground, which has become a sign of social distinction. You belong
if you display it,
just as being a connoisseur of wine, the opera or designer furniture, these
days essential ingredients in the Left lifestyle. A catering firm, which has
been successful in Ferrari Red circles in Germany, is quaintly called Red Gourmet
Faction. Like all new elites, the new-Left profiteers from the eco-social offensives
for education, culture, redistribution and the environment feel a need to set
themselves apart from the masses. They have to prove to themselves again and
again that theirs are more noble motives than those of the plebs. Their contact
with social reality is at best maintained through chats with cab drivers.
This strange phenomenon of an 'anti-bourgeois bourgeoisie' has turned
yesterday's taboos into the accepted norms of today. But the new intellectual
is as much interspersed with taboos as the petty idyll of the Adenauer and
Eisenhower years had been. In the cultural scene, only those succeed who are
let in by the gatekeepers who uphold the prevailing norms. In Germany, the
controllers nowadays occupy nearly the entire middle-management structure and
many leading positions in the churches, the education system, publishing houses,
the media, theatres and the music and the film industries. German sociologist
Gerhard Schulze has called them the "priestly caste of professional standard
setters and gatekeepers".
Yet, many of the representatives of the new establishment still think
they are rebels. Their credo is that the world is bad, and it is all
the fault of
capitalism. No one could ever deprive them of this belief. As Gerhard Schulze
says: "All is problematic, doubtful, relative, broken etc." They
are even incapable of recognising any criticism of their attitudes, because
they think they have a permanent and exclusive hold on all critical capacity.
The intellectuals of the 20th century idealised the 'proletarian' as
noble, the standard bearer of the revolution. Today's Lefties look
at the 'prols'
with revulsion, watching them in reality shows on private TV; they make sure
that their designer children have no contact with the offspring of the lower
classes. They have locked the stable gate to education behind themselves. And
they do anything to keep it that way. One of the really effective means is
their mental dress code. Those who want to belong to the new academic middle
class have to display the Left mental outfit, just to ensure that one is not
disturbed by outsiders.
Snobbishness is in again. The Lefties strive for higher things and are
full of contempt for the material aspirations of the ordinary folk.
Left has forgotten that their post-materialistic universe hovers above a material
one in which the majority of people live their daily lives. They have lost
their emotional connection to the ground level, which the great Social Democrats
and union leaders of the past had in heaps. At all those theatre premieres
and openings of art exhibition, one simply does not encounter the unemployed
and social-welfare recipients, nor those who work in the productive sector
to feed the redistribution machine. These people have other concerns. Or they
have no time.
The Left elite talks about the lower class with the same condescension
as the big landowners once did about their servants. One's own intellectual
superiority is being celebrated whilst one laments the lack of refined culture
among the 'prols'. Yet, it is the academic; the cultivated circles regularly
embrace the silliest nonsense and are spooked by each and every media-created
hysteria. The German forests died only in editorial offices. The forest workers
just shook their heads in disbelief. To see an abnormally cold winter as a
sign of global warming also requires some pretty solid dialectic schooling.
Only then does one find it reasonable that high petrol prices are a good thing
and cheap food a negative. After September 11, it took very little time before
the chattering classes declared the event somehow a just revenge and highlighted
the phallic dimensions of the Twin Towers. The less highly educated felt simply
sorry for the people who had to jump out of the skyscraper windows. The caffe
latte mob failed to realise during the 1990s that Muslim mass immigration might
present a problem -- in university circles, that was seen as quasi-fascist
sentiment. Those ordinary people, who had to share the neighbourhood with the
new immigrants, saw what was coming much sooner and much more clearly.
Once, the Left acted as the 'critical conscience' of society. Now they
pursue bourgeois ideals. Anyone who has arrived and wants to be culturally
has to be against the neo conservatives, against America and for paying deposits
on bottles and drink cans. The intellectuals on the public payroll are agreed
that everything in Western consumer society has to change radically -- except,
of course, their own privileges.
Farewell to Fraternity:
The Left in Defence of their Privileges
One of the classical Left criticisms of bourgeois society has
been that the equality before the law is no more than an empty formality.
are always at a legal disadvantage against the rich. This is why the fraternal
redistribution of the national product has to make the poor richer and rich
poorer. Only when everyone enjoys an almost equal living standard will we have
social justice. All men then become brothers. The methods to achieve this end
spanned from the expropriation of the means of production (that was the hard-core
version) to progressive taxation and public welfare (soft-core fiscal socialism).
To be on the Left meant to argue for the poor and the weak and to fight against
the privileges of the more affluent. For the weak, against the powerful, for
the small and against the big end of town, for David and against Goliath. Nowadays,
however, the Left increasingly defends the well off against the poor sods and
the asset-rich against the penniless -- whether in a material or a cultural
Any softening of anti-dismissal legislation is attacked by combative
union officials as 'social devastation' and the destruction of the
'right to work'.
In countries with little anti-dismissal protection, such as the United States
or Switzerland, people find new jobs much faster than in Germany. And there
are many fewer long-term unemployed. In the US, it is no personal failing to
lose one's job and it is much easier to find a new one. The theory is that
rigid dismissal laws protect powerless workers against the arbitrary might
of brutal bosses. The reality is that lethargic workers are protected from
the competition of competent job seekers. Who in all of this is the weak and
who wields the power?
If you want an object lesson about the iniquitous side effects of excessive
security, take a look a public broadcasting. In Germany, viewers have to pay
for TV licenses, and the beneficiaries are immediately visible when one looks
at the architecture. Some stations have administrative buildings that are much
bigger than the studios. Those who have wangled a job with radio or television
enjoy nearly the lifetime tenure of civil servants and can hardly be sacked.
As it would be unaffordable to offer this benighted status to everybody, only
a small part of the employees are allowed to get it. Most hire out their services
as free contractors, without being able to claim any privileges at all. The
public-sector unions fight valiantly for maintaining and enhancing the privileges
of the tenured priviligentsia. Over time, two classes have emerged, quasi civil
servants and day labourers. This is rock solid discrimination, created in the
name of the rights of employees.
The Left of the 1980s liked to carry on about the coming post-material
age. The welfare state, so they said then, had eliminated poverty at
home. The great
conflicts of the future were expected in soft policy areas, such as protecting
the environment, gender politics or life-style issues. Erich Fromm's bestseller
To Have or to Be? was at the time declared as the philosophical guidebook to
the future by Social Democrats such as Oskar Lafontaine, who was at the time
considered particularly moderniii. But the supposed post-material age did not
last long. After the fall of the Wall, the misery under Soviet socialism became
plain obvious, and solid material concerns returned to the political agenda.
As of 2005, it is not yet a matter of worrying about the daily bread,
but many are again concerned about the cheese to top it off. And where
are being fought over, one can put Fromm aside. Instead, one should again take
a look at Marx, who interpreted history as a sequence of class struggles. Class
theory can offer useful insights when people fight over the economic foundations
of a nation. After all, an arduous class struggle is currently being fought
in Germany. It rages not between workers and capitalists, but between two camps,
whose economic interests confront each other at least as fiercely as those
on both sides of the worker-capitalist divide. It is the battle between the
productive and the public sector. Workers and employees in private enterprise
belong to the productive sector, as do business people and contractors. The
public sector comprises all who are on the payroll of the federal, State and
local governments or receive their pay under centrally fixed pay deal with
quangos. In between are big business and the big banks, who tend to lean towards
government thanks to complex inter-dependencies with the state.
The Left has long lost its roots among the workers, but is tied firmly
to the public sector whose interests they represent with decisive,
resolve. It is no coincidence that the public sector union has become the champion
of the otherwise flagging union movement. Some five million people work in
this sector. Civil servants are massively over-represented in the parliaments,
whereas people from the productive sector can hardly be found there. The producers
form one third of society, but bankroll all and everything: the pensions, health
care, education, the dole and welfare hand-outs, as well of course as public
service pay. The core of the productive sector is small business. They pay
most of the taxes, offer most jobs and apprenticeships and produce most inventions
and innovations. Those in the public sector are ignorant of how the productive
sphere works; they do not understand how it ticks. Like all ruling classes,
the public sector tries to secure and expand its position through strict anti-dismissal
laws, higher taxes and growing public debt - exactly as Marx's analysis would
predict. The Left now fights a class war from above, ironically still using
the Marxist propaganda clichés. Many a pronouncement of the public-sector
union, which aims at no more than to secure the privileges of the tenured and
well-rewarded, reads as if it argued for lifting the starvation wages of Peruvian
It was a brilliant move in the class war from above to attain the intellectual
high ground by tying in the cultural and artistic elites (here it pays to move
from Marx to Gramsci). Out of that corner, there is almost no criticism of
the ruling class since all artists and 'cultural workers' are used to being
fed from the public trough. Materially well-provided cultural mandarins are
staging the class struggles of yesteryear, since they are incapable of comprehending
what is going on today - not that they wanted to. Here, too, Marx offers a
convincing explanation. Local theatres, academies of art and popular TV crime
series simulate critical consciousness by rewarming old clichés. The
public service applauds. And the productive sector pays the subsidies.
Farewell to Internationalism:
The Left Cements National Borders and Third-World Problems
Books such as The Globalisation Trap (by Martin and Schumann of Germany),
The Terror of Economics (by Forrester of France) or The End of Work (by
Rifkin of the United States) can be found on every Leftist's bookshelfiv.
An enthralled public read in horror about the cruelties of the global
economy. Bosses and speculators are inflicting the plague of free trade
on the world. They take the jobs from the workers in the old industrial
countries the more ruthlessly to exploit the Third World. In the process,
social standards, environmental protection, culture and all that is beautiful,
good and noble are being sacrificed. So much for the theory.
But from what precisely do the died-in-the-wool anti-globalisers in the
unions, government offices and media want to protect humankind? And
what is the economic
process that is called globalisation? Let us quote two experts who should be
beyond Left-wing doubts. "The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation
of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption
in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from
under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established
national industries have been destroyed and are daily being destroyed. They
are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death
question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous
raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose
products are consumed not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe." This
is what Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifestov. They were quite
content to add: "The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments
of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all,
even the most backward, nations into civilisation." These two revolutionaries
welcomed the process. The Communist Manifesto is counting the emerging former
colonies, as well as modern innovative industry among those who gain from the
global play. Yet, today the slogans of the anti-globalisation Attac movement
attract widespread support in those countries that have become rich thanks
to capitalism and free markets.
Meanwhile, a new breed of revolutionary is gathering in the world's poor
regions. Who really wants to find pro-capitalist activists will be
in the slums of Johannesburg, Lima or Bombay. Many Third World citizens are
convinced of the merits of free markets and free trade -- quite in contrast
to their well-meaning, self-appointed guardians from the West. A recent survey
in 44 countries revealed, for example, that the absolute majority of Africans
have a positive attitude to free trade. Yet, only a minority of Europeans are
sharing that opinion.
A capitalist grass-roots revolution is under way in the shantytowns of
former British colonies, the favelas of Brazil, and the bidonvilles
of French ex-colonies.
(Satz eingekuerzt). It takes your breath away with its dynamism and creativity.
The poor have become risk takers, compared to whom many a European job seeker
looks like a helpless babe in arms. They have decided to take the redistribution
of wealth into their own hands and to storm the bastions of the rich as small
entrepreneurs. Street traders, small farmers and job seekers experience daily
that it is not greedy entrepreneurs who complicate their lives, but kleptocratic
rulers and parasitic bureaucrats. Those new revolutionaries do not get their
instructions from Che Guevara or Mao. Instead, they demand more market, opportunities
for all and secure property titles. These are frequently denied the poorest,
for example even a property title to the self-built hut. Hardly anyone in Europe
or North America are aware of the new generation of liberal intellectuals from
Africa, South America and Asia. Instead, Left elites pass around old-fashioned
ideologues such as Arundhati Roy or Vandana Shiva, who supposedly serve to
give us a social conscience. But they have no support among the poor in their
The market economy must emerge from the very bottom up. This is for example
the opinion of South Africa's libertarian intellectual pioneer Themba Sono.
This former Marxist has therefore become an active pro-capitalist. He refuses
to promise the people a society in which all are equal. But he demands a system
that hinders no one to improve his fate. "Unfortunately, so many people
fall for the promises of politicians," he says. "They want to believe
in the fairy tale of the good government which achieves social justice. But
the politicians only serve themselves. Take a look at Zimbabwe. This shows
how the politics of populist illusion ends. What is the meaning of capitalism?" he
asks rhetorically. "It means that everyone has the right to invest in
the hope of a profit. All life is a form of investment, irrespective of what
we do" (translated from the German original)vi. Sono wants the poor, too,
to get admission tickets to the capitalist system, namely property rights to
their meagre possessions, the right to start private initiatives where governments
fail and the right to take a job, even if it does not conform to the norms
dictated by the unions. Those denied such admission tickets will always remain
at the bottom of the pile.
How - mind you, with the best of intentions - people can be denied life
opportunities is shown in the following example: The Reebok company
stopped all purchases
of sports goods from a Thai supplier, in order to pre-empt attacks by Left
activists. The reason was that working hours were 72 per week. It mattered
not that the workers wanted to work longer, not shorter hours. Nor did it matter
that their pay was better than the minimum wage and that workplace safety and
health standards were far above what local employers were normally offering.
So, 400 people lost their jobs. Now that was really fair! The Economist called
it 'ethically disemployed'. Themba Sono accuses the Left that it has no idea
about the real worries of the poor. "The celebrities among the anti-globalisers
jet set between the capitals of North America and Europe, spending their lives
in conference halls of five star hotels". He has a message for the 'Nyet
Set': "Leave us alone. Stop exporting your superseded ideologies" (translated)
Julius Nyerere, who ruined Tanzania with his socialist ujamaa village
experiment, is still a hero of the Left, as is Che Guevara who did
much to ruin Cuba's
economy. After all, hat counts for the Left are not the deeds but the words.
What is really strange about its vociferations about world poverty is that
they systematically pass over the success stories in overcoming poverty and
hunger. In Southeast Asia over the past two decades, one could observe how
mass poverty dwindles. The new wealth is not only spreading among the upper
classes, but workers and farmers are also better off. As recently as the 1970s,
the Club of Rome prophesised mass starvation with millions of deaths for Asia.
And now Malaysia, Hong Kong & Co. are taking the markets off their former
colonial masters. They, too, had once been as poverty-stricken as Tanzania
still is. Economic progress is possible. The Condemned of the Earth are now
catching up -- alas, with capitalist methods. And this is what in all likelihood
why the Western Left doesn't want to talk about the Asian ascendancy.
A second liberation of the ex colonies is under way. More and more African,
Asian and South American intellectuals are now freeing themselves from their
Left guardians in Western governments and trade unions, asking them critical
questions. In our day, solidarity with the Third World can only mean that we
play fair when the competition with these countries increases. A Christmas
donation for the poor coffee picker of Nicaragua? Always gladly tossed in the
hat. But when his daughter wants to leave the plantation to become a software
designer. Heavens no! When cheap and excellent computers, textiles and cars
suddenly appear on European markets, produced in countries that had previously
fulfilled the role of willing buyers of European products, all international
solidarity abruptly evaporates. Then the bosses of the senescent industries
walk hand in hand with the union bosses. Bread for the world is OK, but the
cheese remains reserved for us!
Many interest groups are jittery about globalisation, and this with good
reason. The old industries of Europe and North America, the subsidy
grabbers and sclerotic
big corporations, which are mollycoddled by our governments, want everything
to remain the same. They have an inkling that, somewhere out there in the Third
World, there are dynamic, motivated and hard-working people who might relieve
them of their inherited markets. The Left have become the useful and unsuspecting
lobbyists for them.
The Left, while fighting against the opening of global markets, is demanding
debt forgiveness for the rulers of poor countries. Together with the churches
and aid professionals, they managed to get the governments of the rich industrial
countries to come to the party. Their ceaseless cries for more development
aid have also been successful. International pop stars, too, are promoting
the idea that debt cancellations and development handouts can abolish poverty.
This conviction has meanwhile become part of the intellectual and moral vision
of many in Europe and North America.
Yet, the representatives of the democratic opposition in Africa are highly
sceptical about this kind of charity. As they see it, debt forgiveness and
official aid only cement the rule of thieving dictators. "If the industrial
countries really want to help Africans", says economist James Shikwati, " they
should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected
the most aid are also the ones that are in worst shape"viii. Ugandan journalist
Andrew Mwela agrees: "All that aid does is to conceal the incompetence
of our despots"ix. In any event, Western generosity rarely reaches those
for whom it is intended. Uganda had its debts cancelled in 2000. Half of the
additional aid promptly vanished into murky channels. Four years later, Uganda
had more debt than ever before. When Great Britain raised aid to Malawi, the
government promptly ordered 39 new Mercedes S-Class limousines. More than half
the budget in quite a few African countries consists of aid. They are spending
the other half shamelessly on the military and prestige projects. In many cases,
economic growth plummeted when aid rose. The ruling kleptocratic cliques are
the worst burden on the poor of Africa. Those in the West who help them to
obtain debt relief and development aid are only distributing the money of the
working people of Europe to the super rich of Africa.
Farewell to Anti-Fascism:
The Left Subscribes Increasingly to Far Right Slogans
Anyone who places the pamphlets of the Left anti-globalisers and the
neo-Nazis side by side will immediately detect much overlap. The slogans
of both movements are increasingly not only similar, but identical. "Work,
not profit!" is the catch cry of the German neo-Nazis. Horst Mahler,
an anti-Western activist who moved from the Leftist Red Army Faction
to the neo-Nazi Party, typifies the Left-Right convergence. He declared
The Globalisation Trap, the cult book of the anti-globalisers, "a
must read". He opined: "The enemy of all peoples of the world
is an octopus of anonymously, globally interwoven speculative capital." That
might also be read on any of the handbills produced by the Attac mob.
If the anti-Western movements of the Left and the Right were to integrate,
they would not need to change their course. Both already use indiscriminately
any ideological line that can be used against free trade, open borders,
America and Israel.
None of this is of course new. Between the wars, Communists, Fascists
and National Socialists preached the merits of closing the borders
to alien products, foreign
investors and immigrants. They were rather successful because national-conservative
elites shared their misguided views. International economic integration, which
had been disrupted by the first world war, was nearly brought to a complete
halt, with the consequence of economic crises and poverty. Towards the end
of the Weimar Republic, Red-Brown cooperation culminated in joint demonstrations
and actions by the German Communist and the National Socialist parties. Moscow
Centre approved; and a few years later, upright Leftists stood by in horror
as the Hitler-Stalin Pact was signed. The present situation is far less dramatic.
But, like then, protectionist misconceptions, the belief in top-down regulation
and the defamation of all that is American are shared in Red and Brown circles.
That the current nationalist-socialist fraternisation is more than a
bizarre phenomenon among radical fringe groups became apparent in the
middle of 2005
when the East German post-Communists formed the new 'Left Party', with disappointed
West German trade unionists, Social Democrats and Left sectarians. The two
leaders, Oskar Lafontaine and Gregor Gysi, declared immediately that they were
out to attract 'misled voters' from the extreme right. They are appealing to
the yearning for a paternalistic state, which offers its citizens sustenance,
protection and security by sheltering them from foreign influences. Lafontaine
shamelessly sang from the national song sheet to attract voters from the right
fringe, demanding that German jobs be reserved for Germans. This earned him
the prompt acclaim of the leaders of the neo-Nazi Party. Some of them invited
their members to join the Left Party.
Political observers of Germany have long watched the Right flank, always
on the lookout for a German Le Pen or Haider. They should have turned
every now and then, for now we have him. He emerged from the Left corner. That
of course raised his chances of a hearing in the media. We now have an integration
of what belongs together, a movement built on fear of the future and on resentment
of Anglo-Saxon capitalism and technical progress.
Their shared values are not confined to social and economic policy. "For
peace! Against US wars!" could be read on last year's election campaign
posters of the neo-Nazis. Both wings, however, confined their love of peace
to attacking Western military actions. By contrast, they display deep sympathy
for Islamic terror. Exactly like the neo Nazis, many on the Left consider terror
as a defence of the Islamic-Arab identity against Western capitalism and cultural
imperialism. Oskar Lafontaine wants to grant the clerico-fascist regime of
the Iranian mullahs a right to nuclear weapons, since Israel also has such
weapons. The fact that Iran wants to wipe out Israel, and not vice versa, does
not seem to faze them.
It has been a good tradition of the Left to insist on democratic freedom.
Yet, the only Mideastern country where such freedom exists is being
denigrated in the name of 'anti-imperialism'. Israel is the only country with
free elections, a free press, free trade unions and all other fundamental liberties
in a region where human rights are being trampled by religious leaders, military
thugs, civilian dictators and corrupt sheiks. In Israel, women are by and large
treated as equals, lesbians and homos face no official discrimination, the
judiciary is independent, the law liberal. These are normally very important
achievements in the eyes of the academic Left, but they do not earn Israel
any sympathies. To the contrary. Instead, Yassir Arafat, the murderous, dictatorial
and corrupt Palestinian leader, became the idol of the anti-globalisers and
Berlin sociologist Michael Holmes wrote an essay about the odd sympathies
of many Leftists. In it he asked (our translation): "Why does no one read
the charter of Hamas or the declarations of El Fatah, in which these organisations
declare their anti-Semitic objectives openly? Why is every suicide attack used
in Europe for even sharper condemnations of Israel? Why do Germans not see
the connexions between September 11 and their own anti-Semitic history? Why
were the biggest anti-Semitic marches in Europe since 1945 organised by the
enemies of globalisation?"x.
Historians and Islam experts have documented that the central pattern
of the National Socialist perception of America and their anti-Semitism
taken over by present-day Islamists. National Socialist regime has supported
Islamism not only through weapons deliveries and diplomatic support; it also
shares the core of its ideologyxi. Holmes writes: "Not only is all that
is Jewish evil in the eyes of the Nazis and the jihadists. All that is evil
is Jewish. And the fight against the US is fed by that same anti-Semitic world
view" (our translation)xii. Regrettably, a non-negligible part of the
Left is closing its eyes and glorifies the terrorists as anti-imperialist resistance
This is not quite new. During the student protests of the 1960s, anti-Semitism,
disguised as anti-Zionism, was rife. Loud mouths such as Dieter Kunzelmann
kept swearing about the 'shit Jews'. German Red Army terrorists got their training
from Arab Jew haters, placed a bomb in the Jewish Community Centre in Berlin
and abducted an Israeli passenger plane. "The German 68 generation resembled
their parents in the most miserable of ways", remarked historian Götz
Aly (our translation) xiii.
The low point of Left confusion is marked by their understanding attitude
towards Palestinian and other terrorists, the congresses and demos
they share with
jihadists, and their blindness to Islamists' open declarations of anti-human
aims and methods. What started as anti-fascist pathos intended to strengthen
the Left identity has now degenerated into folklore. The Jews murdered in the
past were used to demonstrate one's noble sentiments. The living are considered
disturbers of the peace.
Farewell to the Enlightenment:
Religious Obscurantism, Esoterics and Conspiracy Theories are Thriving
in the Left's Slipstream
Leftists tend to see themselves as champions of social criticism and emancipation.
The traditional Left inventory contained the freeing of thought from theological-metaphysical
obscurantism. A socialist of the early days in the last century would presumably
tear his hairs about the present-day Left.
Post-Communists, Social Democrats, Greens, Alternative Democrats - or
whatever other label they travel under - have over recent decades said
by step, to the Enlightenment. They now embrace a romantic counter-Enlightenment.
Instead of improving the world by critical, rational analysis, they now 'believe'.
Esoterics and established religion are now of equal merit for acquiring knowledge,
as they adhere to the creed of an inner, divine equilibrium in Nature. The
new spirituality is being propagated at church conventions, in colleges of
adult education, on the radio and television.
This form of retro-piety meanders somewhere between the Dalai Lama and
the Walldorf schools, Greenpeace and the Peta organisation. Academic
adopt new religious currents, anthroposophy, Buddhism and esoteric beliefs
manifold variants. The most influential and widespread such variety is ecologism.
Like Christianity, ecologism is infused with the anticipation of an end time
which one has to prepare for by doing without and by penance. One can detect
these postures in the scriptures of the eco movement. Eternal life has its
contemporary equivalent in unending cyclic loops, and penance is done by
paying a bottle deposit. The Last Judgement has been replaced by the climate
and the church steeples by wind mills.
German children's and schoolbooks, video clips and early evening television,
government museums and party programmes have long been suffused with the
ecological dogma. It is has become an integral part of the public language.
good, man is bad. And if man does not obey, he is threatened with the 'revenge
of Nature'. The angry deity of Nature demands placating rituals; this explains
the dedication with which many Germans sort through their rubbish. The Natural
is pure, unspoilt, holy. What is man-made is sinful, dirty, spoilt. In our
pop culture, the whales and dolphins have taken over the role of the angels,
as beneficent and wise higher beings who convey messages to us mortals.
The community of believers is now united, as once they were around Holy
Communion, in candle vigils, sit-downs and fundraiser concerts. As
in all religions,
food fetishes guarantee the delimitation of the elites from the impure heathens.
'Bio' has become the new halal and kosher, a mental construct to assist in
reasserting one's creed in everyday life. Though there is no proof - despite
many attempts to find one - that gene modified food is in a way harmful or
that food produced according to the guidelines of the eco organisations is
healthier, 'bio-eco' and 'organic' are in. Salvation can come only in the
circular flow', which lifts individual mortality into an eternal circle of
There are no reasoned grounds for many modern fears, and the divisions
between justified concerns and modern humbug have long disappeared.
We were informed
of supposedly terrible dangers from mobile phones, tooth fillings and plastic
toys. At a time, when fundamentalist men of God inflict blood baths all around
the world, one should probably be grateful for religions that do not inflict
losses of human lives. But ecologism, too, has lost its innocence. It is
meanwhile costing human lives, indeed very many. Every 30 seconds someone
dies of malaria.
Leftist eco elites have to shoulder co-responsibility for this, as they got
politicians to declare a shortsighted ban on DDT, against all reason and
all social consciousness. This valuable instrument in the fight against malaria
was used in minute doses around human habitations, where it did not harm
-- different from its intensive use in agriculture.
Alas, the DDT ban is not the only example. The list of eco crusades at
the expense of other humans is growing longer and longer. It reaches
fight against gene technology, with all its potential of helping the poor
Third World, to the boycotts of vaccinations, so that many contagious diseases
are spreading again. Leftist campaigners impede much medical research that
requires animal experiments. They are undermining the solutions to present
and future human problems with religious zeal.
You are with it if you look down upon the health achievements of modern
medicine. The fact that life expectancy has doubled over the past 200
years is shrugged
off. Not so long ago, polio, measles and other serious, often deadly illnesses
were an ever-present threat. Hardly anyone considers their elimination through
pharmaceuticals and technology as a triumph. Even those who rely on therapies
based on science, logic and controllable experiment now use the defamatory
term 'conventional school medicine'. It is considered a conspiracy of greedy
men in white coats, which cure the symptoms of their patients with 'hard
chemistry' and 'cold technology'. Science and technology are suspect, esoteric
are the salvation. What once began as a justified critique of mass medicine
now often has been turned into a pseudo-religious veneration of miracle healers
and homeopaths. Gurus who once only had the run of the esoteric corner now
dominate the public health debate. Apparent humbug is now called as 'Holistic
Medicine' or 'Soft Healing'.
Most political minds underestimate the power of magic. Like Left-wing
sociologist Adorno, they think that "occultism is the meta physics of the idiots".
But idiocy does not automatically mean weakness or that it will stay on the
fringes. Such ideas can be mightily influential when they conquer the centre
of society. German author Jutta Ditfurth has to be thanked for having analysed
the esoteric scene and its political ramifications years ago. She showed
how obscurantist world models were spreading throughout the eco scene and
social movements. And whereas the dark flowers of the occult used to be picked
up by the nationalist Right, much of it is now absorbed on the frayed edges
of a disoriented Left.
Over recent years, the contempt for enlightened ideas and value relativism
of some on the Left has been spreading beyond the eco and the esoteric
spheres. Considerable numbers now busy themselves to present the
Islamo-fascists as harmless. This is sometimes done in the crudest of fashions.
In record time, an entire genre of conspiracy literature has emerged. It
would have us believe that a conniving club of neo cons in the back rooms
White House is steering everything that happens in the world. What started
as a sinister conspiracy theory of a few hundred freaks has now become
the belief of hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens. Acceptance
been enhanced by the fact that the neo cons come from the US East coast.
is reminiscent of the 'Wise Men of Zion', and the authors that now write
this stuff are serving a growth market. Renowned publishers and the media
false, self-righteous and resentful allegations wide exposure. Their success
only demonstrates the extent to which the esoteric boom of the past twenty
years has spread this nonsense among the people. It is often the same people
who mutter about the 'influence of Washington' and in the next moment carry
on about the power of crystals, energy water or some stellar ascendancy.
Farewell to Progress:
The Left Blocks Change and New Technology
At the end of the 1970s, the Greens managed to mould arch-conservative
and Left positions into an apocalyptic worldview. Anti-capitalist ideologues
and conservative enemies of progress met at protests against nuclear
power and formed the Green Party. The new pessimism about the future
soon infected Social Democracy and brought about its opportunistic Greening.
What had been a demand for progress and reform metamorphosed into the
Green cyclical philosophy.
Long ago, Social Democrat transport ministers promised all citizens easy
access to nearby motorways. The car and individual mobility have instead
favourite target of cultural criticism. The Left's farewell to industrial and
technical progress is demonstrated most clearly by their attitudes to nuclear
power. What once was the unreserved advocacy has become uncompromising opposition
to the nuclear power industry.
The last innovation that welcomed was colour TV. Since then, every new
technology has been immediately blocked, unless each and every risk
could be completely
eliminated. The angst-laden concept of the 'precautionary principle' has become
the central icon in the Leftist discourse about the future. 'Sustainability'
has replaced the concept of open evolution. The future can at best be imagined
as an energy-saving variant of the present. Germany's Red-Green federal government
boasted openly about getting rid of all nuclear plants. In Left intellectual
circles, the idea that the future might be even better than the present is
considered as a totally crazy utopia.
This point is clear when they discuss the potential that science and
technology might offer. This is a topic that a present-day Leftist
would rather avoid.
When the computer revolution is creating new jobs, catalytic converters clean
the air, and gene technology increases the harvest, the Leftists sit on their
sofas, folding their arms and look aggrieved. Progress must only come from
social revolution, never from technology.
Instead, they act out a negativist kind of Adventism that has been knitted
together from pieces of Marxian pauperisation theory and ecological end-game
scenarios. Whatever happens, we are led closer to the unavoidable abyss. To
support this view, they shamelessly change the arguments. Workers may become
wealthy. BUT the Third World is impoverished! The Third World is catching up.
BUT the environment! The environment is becoming cleaner. BUT the climate catastrophe
looms! Somehow, everything will end in tears. Dan Diner, the historian and
erstwhile activist of the Socialist Bureau, once remarked (our translation)
that "what gathers on the Left are people who cannot think straight. They
continually depict worst-case scenarios, panic and become more and more radical
because they have begun to believe in their prophecies of disaster."xiv
When computers became affordable in the 1980s, the new technology was
being discussed from two angles: Computers are job killers and therefore
anti-social. And computers pave the way for the Orwellian surveillance of all
citizens. The Green Party consequently decided to boycott computers -- well
at least for a while. When mobile phones spread, the number one topic was the
radiation danger. The triumph of the internet led above all to fears that pornography
and Nazi propaganda would inundate us all. Reproductive medicine? Frankenstein
researchers are intent on cloning humans. Stem cell research? Humans are to
be cannibalised as spare parts. Plant gene technology? Monster tomatoes! For
the past ten years, gene technology has been nobbled in Europe with the most
absurd of arguments. And no one talks about farmers from India to Argentina
having planted improved varieties on millions of hectares without any harm
whatever to humans or nature.
Affordable and healthy food for the masses once was an important demand
of social revolutionaries. Thus, Friedrich Engels postulated the 'democratisation
of meat consumption'. He would be more than a little amazed today. At the start
of the 21st century, Left spirits are demanding "100% purity whatever
it costs, not bulk for the masses". Green ministers and so-called consumer
advocates are agitating against cheap food in supermarkets. The caviar Left
looks down their collective noses full of contempt for popular chain stores
such as Aldi, and they present their hostility as proof of their social responsibility
and ecological high-mindedness.
Never in human history could more people buy hygienic, cheap and nice-tasting
foodstuffs as in our system of specialised, high-tech mass production. Never
before have more people been able to afford cheap fruit thanks to Aldi & Co
- a huge contribution to public health. And from where on earth do consumer
advocates get the idea that canned and deep-frozen food, or modern preservation
means must be condemned? The new technologies have ensured that food is today
is healthier than in the olden times when many thousands died of food that
had spoilt or become poisonous because of mould and botulism.
We have enjoyed impressive nutritional improvements thanks to technical
progress and growing wealth. An average European of a hundred years
ago would today
feel like in Paradise. Why on earth are the Lefties not able to welcome this?
The answer is the envy of failed 'people's educators' as well as a deep aversion
amongst the cultural elites against all that is egalitarian and part of mass
culture. The Refined, the Cultivated, the Educated seek to set themselves apart
from the real-word barbarians of shop at Aldi's and dine at McDonalds. These
people are television addicts, readers of the popular press, and mass tourists
and should be treated with utter contempt, albeit packaged in a wrapper of
nannyish caring. This attitude is behind the furore with which they try to
make everything more expensive that the masses enjoy: Beer in cans and flights
to Mallorca, petrol and junk food.
This is precisely where the French intellectual Leftie José Bové fits
into the picture. He bought himself a herd of goats and has since acted as
a farmers' tribune. Together with a few fellow crims from the radical Farmers
Confederation, he simply trashed a McDonalds restaurant in France. "The
Right wingers hate McDonalds because they have outdone the National Socialist
idea of the simple, nutritious Sunday stew. The Left hate McDonalds because
they have realised the old demand of the workers movement that the working
class should have access to the meat pots of the bourgeoisie and a right to
eat in well-aired, well-lit restaurants" (translated). This is what Richard
Herzinger and Hannes Stein wrote in their book about the millennial offensive
of the anti-Westernersxv.
Bové became an icon of the anti-globalisation movement as a defender
of rural interests. But the arguably best symbiosis between social critique
and gourmet indulgence has been managed by the Italian communist journal Il
Manifesto. Its food supplement Gambero Rosso (Red Lobster) has become a leading
foodie magazine, which is now far outsells the original paper.
i For example, J. Gwartney-R. Lawson (2005), Economic Freedom of the
World, 2005 Annual Report (Vancouver, BC: Fraser Institute), also on
ii P. Berman, Terror and Liberalism (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003).
iii E. Fromm, To Have or to Be? (New York: Harper Collins, 1976).
iv H.P. Martin- H. Schumann (1997), The Global Trap: Globalization
and the Assault on Prosperity and Democracy (London: Zed Books); V.
Forrester (1997), L'horreur économique (Paris: Livre de Poche),
J. Rifkin (1995), The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor
Force and the Dawning of the Post-Market Era (New York: Tarcher/Putnam).
v K. Marx-F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto (New York: Washington
Square Press/Simon & Schuster, 1964), 63-64.
vi T. Sono in a German-language interview with Michael Miersch in
Die Weltwoche, no 43/03, entitled 'Alle Macht den Straßenhändlern'
(All Power to the Hawkers").
vii T. Sono, idem.
viii J. Shikwati (2005), in an interview with Der Spiegel, the news
magazine, 4 July 2005 [English translation on http://service,spiegel.de/cache/international].
ix A. Mwenda (2005) in a German language interview entitled 'Bitte
helft uns nicht' ('Please do not help us') in Süddeutsche Zeitung,
x M. Holmes, comment on "Matthias Küntzel:Dschihad und Judenhaß' ('Jihad and Hatred of Jews'), posted 26 May 2005 on http://www.fdog.org/blog/37.
xi I. Buruma-A.Margalit (2004), Occidentalisms (New York: Penguin).
xii M. Holmes, idem.
xiii G. Aly (2005), "Explodierender Hass" (Explosion of
hatred), Die Welt, 16 July.
xiv Dan Diner quoted by R. Herzinger (2002), in his article "Prophet
auf leisen Sohlen' ('Prophet treading on silent soles'), Die Zeit,
xv R. Herzinger-H. Stein (1995), Endzeitpropheten oder die Offensive
der Antiwestler (Millennial Prophets or the Offensive of the Anti-Westerners)
(Reinbek, Germany: Rowohlt), 24-25.
Copyright © 1996-2011 Dirk Maxeiner and Michael Miersch.
All rights reserved.